Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A new corporate tax order for the world; Number of websites passes one billion; Russia, Zimbabwe in $3bn platinum mining deal; American bellies are expanding fast

1 A new corporate tax order for the world (BBC) Moves to tackle corporate tax avoidance on a global scale have been unveiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The action plan is aimed at multinational companies that shrink their tax bills by shifting their profits from one country to another. Firms including Starbucks, Amazon and Google have been accused of pursuing such strategies.

The OECD says 44 nations making up 90% of the world economy favour its plan. Announcing the proposals, the OECD's head of tax, Pascal Saint-Amans, said that they would "change the rules of the game" by making sure companies paid taxes in the country where profits were generated. At present, firms can exploit agreements intended to avoid double taxation of profits by using them to obtain double tax deductions instead.

They also use internal billing procedures to ensure that profits are registered in countries where corporate tax levels are lower. Under the OECD plan, a country-by-country model would require firms to declare their revenue, profit, staffing and tax paid in each jurisdiction.

Richard Collier, tax partner at PwC said the changes would have a big impact on global firms. "The scale and scope of change surpasses what many people had anticipated at the outset. The big worry for businesses is that different tax authorities will require different information, which could add to the administrative and cost burden for businesses." Anton Hume, at accountants BDO, said the measures could result in companies moving away from tax havens: "It may mean that a lot of activities are onshored again."

2 Number of websites passes one billion (Straits Times) The number of websites has burst above one billion and is growing apace, according to online tracker Internet Live Stats. Tim Berners-Lee, considered the father of the World Wide Web, touted the milestone on Twitter - one of the most prominent websites in the mushrooming but sometimes murky Internet world.

It comes as the agency responsible for managing addresses on the Internet expands choices far beyond ".com" and ".net" to provide more online real estate for the booming ranks of websites. The World Wide Web turned 25 in April this year. It was born from an idea in a technical paper from Berners-Lee, then an obscure, young computer scientist at a European physics lab.

3 Russia, Zimbabwe in $3bn platinum mining deal (Johannesburg Times) Russia and Zimbabwe have signed a $3 billion deal to jointly mine platinum in the southern African country, the world's third largest producer, with Moscow providing the investment funds. The project will see production of nearly 600,000 ounces a year, making it the largest platinum mine in Zimbabwe.

Veteran President Robert Mugabe said the deal, expected to create 8,000 jobs. "We couldn't do it with enemies. No. We can only do it with our friends," said Mugabe, whose government has largely been shunned by most Western nations. The $3 billion will fund the development of the Darwendale Platinum mine northwest of the capital Harare and the construction of a smelter.

4 American bellies are expanding fast (San Francisco Chronicle) The number of American men and women with big-bellied, apple-shaped figures — the most dangerous kind of obesity — has climbed at a startling rate over the past decade, according to a government study. People whose fat has settled mostly around their waistlines instead of in their hips, thighs, buttocks or all over are known to run a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and other obesity-related ailments.

Fifty-four percent of US adults have abdominal obesity, up from 46 percent in 1999-2000, researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Abdominal obesity is defined as a waistline of more than 35 inches in women and more than 40 inches in men. During the 12-year period studied, the average waist size in the US expanded to 38 inches for women, a gain of 2 inches. It grew to 40 inches for men, a 1-inch increase.

Dr. Earl Ford, a CDC researcher and the study's lead author, said Americans may be exercising less and getting flabby. But because fat weighs less than muscle, they are not necessarily getting heavier. The study cites other possible reasons for the increase in belly fat, including sleep deprivation and certain medicines. Belly fat not only makes people look apple-shaped but often means fat has built up deep inside the body, around the liver and other abdominal organs.

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